Legal Services Bill [HL]
Lord Elystan-Morgan (Crossbench)
My Lords, I rise very briefly to support the principle enshrined in these amendments. I do not disagree with the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. Before becoming a judge I had, like him, the immense privilege of being for many years a solicitor, and thereafter a member of the Bar. That gives one some insight into the immense worth of these two independent professions. Their independence is tied up with their integrity, which is tied up with their reputation for competence, which I think is second to none in the world.
It may be a coincidence that in all countries with comparable situations to England and Wales there have as yet been no moves towards the ABS system. The House I am sure is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Neill, for the information concerning the situation at the Bundestag.
However, the case does not rest of necessity on the argument put forward with such clear articulation by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. I do not dispute that case, but it can be put effectively at a much lower level. It is this: business and professional life are entirely different worlds. There are situations where they coalesce and situations where they compete.
Part 5 creates a massive new experiment. That experiment may have the capacity for good, or it may have the capacity for evil, damage and injury to institutions that we hold dear. No one in this House or elsewhere can foresee exactly where it will lead. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Neill, takes the principle much further than that of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, but the case for the two amendments is that Parliament can do one of two things. It can allow Part 5 of the legislation to proceed into the unknown by taking this huge and potentially dangerous step, knowing that the day may come when it may have to reconsider most drastically exactly what has been brought about. The other alternative is prudence and a cautious precept—to place the onus where it belongs; on the advocates of this drastic change. Those advocates should indeed prove their case before Part 5 is implemented. The possibilities are enormous. The potential for evil could be very, very great. Prudence demands the acceptance of the principle of these amendments.